Taiwan ran into some legal problems while upgrading its six French built Kang Ding (La Fayette) class frigates. Taiwan is upgrading weapons and electronics, all of which will change the appearance of the Kang Dings. The external appearance is important because the La Fayette is a “stealth” design with few external forms that could make it easier for radar to detect or identify the ship. Removing the Sea Chaparral launcher behind the main gun will improve stealth but the addition of new radars and other sensor will probably complicate the stealth aspect of the ship.
One of the differences between the La Fayette and the Kang Ding was that the Taiwan version of the ship left out the 32 (8x4) Mk 41 VLS (Vertical Launch System) cells behind the main gun. On the Kang Ding that was replaced with the deck mounted launcher for four Sea Chaparral anti-aircraft missiles, with eight reload missiles below decks. The eight anti-ship missiles were fired from launch tubes in the midsection of the ship. With the removal of the deck mounted Sea Chaparral launcher up to 32 VLS cells can be installed. All this work will change the external appearance of the ship and Taiwan had to consult with the French builder to do this as well as obtain VLS technology rights for the VLS cells used. All these design and legal matters were worked out but it delayed the start of reconstruction work on the Kang Dings until 2022, and completion will take about two years.
In 2013 Taiwan began upgrading the weapons on most of its warships. The Kang Ding frigates were to receive new anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The new supersonic Hsiung Feng 3 anti-ship missile replaces the less capable Hsiung Feng 2. The 6.1-meter (19 foot) long Hsiung-feng 3 weighs 1.5 tons, has a 181 kg (400 pound) warhead, and a top speed of 2,300 kilometers an hour. Max range is 300 kilometers. It uses inertial and GPS guidance to get to the general vicinity of the target, then several other sensors to lock on to a specific ship and hit it. The smaller Hsiung-feng 2 has a range of 160 kilometers and less extensive electronics.
The new anti-aircraft system is also locally made. This is a ship mounted version of the Sky Sword II air-to-air missile. This 203mm missile weighs 190 kg (418 pounds), has a range of 100 kilometers, and is radar guided. The air-to-air version of Sky Sword II entered service in 1999 and was developed because the United States would not supply Taiwan with AMRAAM.
The Kang Ding variant of the La Fayette class frigates are 3,800-ton ships that are 125 meters (410 feet) long and have a top speed of 46 kilometers an hour. The crew of 141 can stay at sea for fifty days at a time. The Kang Dings were originally armed with a 76mm gun, two 40mm autocannon for aircraft and small ships and a 20mm Phalanx system for defense against anti-ship missiles, eight Hsiung-feng 2 anti-ship missiles, and a Chaparral anti-aircraft missile system (four Sidewinder heat seeking missiles with a range of 10 kilometers). There were also two torpedo tubes and a S-70 helicopter, including a hangar and landing pad.
The new anti-aircraft missiles and electronic systems (fire control, radars and other sensors) will significantly improve the ability of the Kang Dings to handle the new airborne electronic systems on Chinese ships and aircraft as well as increase the probability of shooting down Chinese warplanes.